Top Chefs Pick Top Dogs

Selections from the year's best bites.

Photo by Vincent Ricardel.

>>To build up an appetite for next week's Best of Washington Party, we're reading through our July issue. Up today? Washington's best hot dogs:


 Whether cooked over a grill or enjoyed at a baseball game, hot dogs are a summer tradition. Americans eat 7 billion dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.

Who makes the tastiest? To find out, our food writers first selected their top choices. They whittled the list to ten regular varieties—no chicken, turkey, or tofu—that included store-bought and deli-counter brands. Then they enlisted four local Top Chef alumni—Carla Hall, Mike Isabella, Spike Mendelsohn, and Bryan Voltaggio—to pick their favorites.

“I know what I’m looking for in a hot dog,” said Hall. “I like the snap of the skin, but I don’t want it to be too tough. I want fat in there, and I want it to be juicy.”

Which one was top dog? The pork-and-beef blend from Omaha Steaks—the chefs praised it for its tenderness, soft casing, and just-right salt content. “It’s definitely high-end,” said Voltaggio. An eight-pack sells for $27.99 at area Omaha Steaks locations (Fairfax, Falls Church, Gaithersburg) or

Close behind was the traditional frankfurter ($7.85 a pound) from German Gourmet in Falls Church. The smoky flavor and natural casing earned it high marks. “It doesn’t taste like a hot dog, though,” said Isabella. “It tastes more like kielbasa.” Third place, to the surprise of the chefs, went to the garlicky Angus variety from Oscar Mayer, available at area grocery stores.

Also tested were Applegate Farms, Ball Park Hearty Beef, Hebrew National, Hofmann White Snappys, Hofmann Red Hots, and Nathan’s. The worst, according to our judges? The wieners from Alexandria meat purveyor Red Apron. Said one chef: “It was like a horrible sausage.”